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Winds sweep through county

A cold front pushing through the area Thursday evening brought with it gusty winds and heavy downpours, but Huntingdon County was spared the brunt of the issues.

According to a report from the Huntingdon County Emergency Agency, no serious widespread issues were reported by local emergency management coordinators (EMCs) or area fire chiefs.

“Numerous calls for trees and wires down were dispatched by the Huntingdon County 911 Center and local volunteer fire companies handled those calls,” said Joe Thompson, county EMA director. “No serious critical infrastructure, community or widespread flooding problems are reported by local EMCs.”

Though other parts of the state experienced areal flooding, or flooding that develops more gradually, usually from prolonged and persistent moderate to heavy rainfall, the county was spared any sort of widespread flooding.

“No primary state roadways are reported affected by flooding, debris or other impacts this morning,” said Thompson.

According to the report from the county EMA office, 20 Penelec customers were without power this morning. Though many customers experienced interruptions in power, there were no widespread reports of power outages within Penelec service areas in the county during the storm.

Doug Roles, vice president of member services for Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, said at the peak of the storm, there were around 1,733 members without power, with 1,123 of those members from Huntingdon County.

“The largest chunk of that outage was off of the Center Union substation,” said Roles. “There were about 800 members that were without power, but it was restored about 11 p.m. Thursday. The bulk of the outages were in the northern part of the county.”

Roles also said that in Wayne Township, Mifflin County, there were 59 members without power during the storm and 426 without power in Oliver Township, Mifflin County.

The cause of the outages were due to wind gusts that downed trees onto power lines.

“Our crews worked as quickly and safely as possible to restore power throughout the night,” said Roles.

Roles also said there could be some downed trees on power lines this morning, but if anyone comes across a downed tree on a live power line, either call a utility company or call 911.

“Never approach a downed live wire directly,” said Roles.

According to Aaron Tyburski, meteorologist, the biggest issue in Huntingdon County were the wind gusts that came through after the front passed through the area.

“The highest wind gusts we had were at 50 mph, and that occurred just before 5 a.m.,” he said. “But, we had gusts up to 45-50 mph all night. The strong winds started around 8 p.m. after the front went through, and it lasted through the night.”

The cold front coming through meant there a huge swing in the temperature, which is not uncommon for this area, especially during this time of year, said Tyburski.

“If you were walking around Thursday, you probably noticed it was warm and humid,” he said. “Temperatures were in the 70s, which is more normal of a late-summer day. Once the front came through, that moisture got wrung out along the front, and we saw heavy rain. When it moved through, by this morning, temperatures were at 37 degrees. So, we saw around a 30-degree temperature dump along with the cold front.”

In addition to the winds and temperature drop, the county saw around 1.25-1.5 inches of rain as a result of the storm.

“We even had some reports of snowflakes in the area, especially over the northern part of the county,” said Tyburski. “So, this could be considered our first snow of the year, though there were no accumulations. It was quite the 24-hour period, but it’s a good way to usher out the fall and prepare for winter.”

For those who may have had enough excitement as far as weather is concerned for the next few days, Tyburski said temperatures and conditions should be typical for the next week.

“We’ll see partly sunny to sunny skies all the way to next Thursday, with highs around 48-54 degrees and lows around 30-35, which is typical for this time of year,” he said.

Trial postponed in drug ring case

Next week’s trial for a Pittsburgh man charged for his alleged role in a drug operation that funneled crack cocaine, heroin and fentanyl into Huntingdon County has been postponed to allow defense counsel to prepare pre-trial motions.

Arthur Lee Griffin Jr., 37, was scheduled for a four-day trial Nov. 5-8. Jury selection was conducted Oct 7, at which time nine women and three men were picked to hear the case.

Griffin and his attorney, Timothy Burns of Ebensburg, joined state prosecutor David Gorman from the office of the attorney general in court Thursday to discuss the status of the trial with Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic.

Zanic said he’s been aware of plea offers going back and forth between Gorman and defense counsel since jury selection and asked how the case now stands.

“We were not able to come to an agreement,” Burns said. Burns said because the order establishing a prima facie case wasn’t issued until last week and because he himself has been out of town, he’s not prepared to go to trial as planned.

Burns said he also intends to file a notice of alibi based on additional information provided by his client.

Gorman said since Burns wants to file the motion of alibi, his office, in turn, has a right to conduct its own investigation. He also said he feels if the trial moves forward now, without letting Burns peruse the motion, it leaves the case vulnerable to appeal.

“It could result is a claim of ineffective counsel,” he said. “I don’t think the court has a reasonable choice other than to continue the case.”

Zanic agreed to a continue the matter said said he wants a new trial date scheduled as soon as possible.

He advise Burns he has 14 days to file any pre-trial motions on Griffin’s behalf and said a hearing for those motions will be scheduled forthwith.

Griffin, who is held on $100,000 cash bail, is facing four charges of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, an ungraded felony offense.

He is also charged with felony 1 dealing in proceeds from unlawful activity; felony 1 corrupt organization (employee), felony 1 conspiracy and felony 3 criminal use of a communications facility.

Griffin is among individuals, from both the Pittsburgh area and Huntingdon County, who were charged with drug crimes following a review by the state’s 42nd investigative grand jury in October 2018.

Zanic scheduled the trial to run four days, in part, to accommodate the volume of potential witnesses. During jury selection,the judge noted two dozen persons were on the witness list.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

LIHEAP grants now available

As temperatures drop, adequate heating becomes important to all Huntingdon County residents. One company is urging those in need of financial assistance to apply for energy assistance grants now.

According to a press release, UGI has started to urge residents in need to apply for LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) offered by the state Department of Human Services. The program aims “to help cover the cost of heating (people’s) homes this winter.”

UGI Spokesman Joseph Swope explained the program in greater detail.

“LIHEAP is a federal program that provides grants to assist low-income families,” Swope said. “Crisis grants are also available, and also help people in a variety of situations.”

Swope believes there many situations where residents may require assistance.

“No one, UGI especially, wants to terminate anyone’s service. But people can require assistance for a number of reasons,” Swope said, “including the passing of a family’s breadwinner or (heating) equipment needing repaired. These grants can be used to reinstate service or repair broken equipment.”

Swope says that grants include an inherent benefit.

“The plus side of grants is that they don’t need to be repaid,” Swope said. “UGI will help people determine whether or not they are eligible. The state Department of Human Services administers the program.”

Erin James, press secretary for the state Department of Human Services, said that determinants for eligibility include income and need.

“Any Pennsylvania household that meets the eligibility criteria, which are based on income, qualify,” James said. “Households in immediate danger of being without heat can also qualify for crisis grants.”

The program, James specified, is available to everyone, not just customers of UGI.

To apply for the program, households must receive below a set income limit corresponding to their size. A household of five, for example, must earn a collective income below $45,255. Additional income limits can be found at dhs.pa.gov.

The amounts distributed differ between low income and crisis needs.

“There is no limit to the number of grants (given out),” James said. “The minimum cash benefit that can be received is $200 and the maximum is $1,000, and the minimum crisis benefit is $25 and maximum is $600.”

As of September, the state Department of Human Service’s data confirms 1,878 Huntingdon County residents have taken part in the program.

The application period begins today, Friday, Nov. 1, and will continue through April 10, 2020.

James outlined the methods residents can use to apply.

“(Huntingdon County residents can) apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us; or request an application by calling the Statewide LIHEAP Hotline at 1-866-857-7095 or call PA Relay at 711 for the hearing impaired,” James said.

Swope urges all those who are eligible to apply.

“If there is any chance someone qualities for the grants, they should apply,” Swope said. “(UGI) will help people keep warm through the winter.”

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.

PFD mandatory wear begins today

Today doesn’t just mark the start of a new month, but also the start of the state Fish and Boat Commission’s mandatory wear life jacket requirement

Beginning today, Friday, Nov. 1 and lasting until April 30, all boaters are required to wear a U.S Coast Guard approved life jacket at all times while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any kayak.

Boaters should be aware of water survival safety when deciding to take trips in their local rivers and lakes. According to Corey Girt, Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) with the state Fish and Boat Commission, falling into cold water can be dangerous.

“During this time of year, the water temperature is significantly colder, hyperthermia sets in, especially if they happen to fall out of their boats. It can become a serious issue,” he said.

Boating activities during the cold months can pose a number of risks for the riders. Hypothermia can occur when a persons body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing dangerously low body temperatures.

Most of these accidents are due to smaller water crafts being tipped over.

“This time (of year) is when we see most of these accidents, especially with the smaller crafts,” said Girt.

If a person were to fall into icy waters, their body would go into cold shock. Commonly experienced by animals that mistakenly fall through thin ice during the winter season. The shock causes them to inhale water (and thus drowning) may result from hyperventilation.

For a person, cold shock occurs in the first 3-5 minutes when a person makes immediate contact with frigid waters. This can cause a person to involuntarily gasp for air, hyperventilate and panic—all of which can result in people inhaling water, injuring themselves and drowning.

According to state boating accident reports, nearly 80% of all boating fatalities occurred because boaters were not wearing life jackets.

Girt said there will be rangers supervising local areas in order to keep the residents safe.

“We patrol boat ramps, people putting in or taking out their boats,” he said.

Taking preventative measures is the first thing they do when watching out for locals.

“If they’re just getting started, then we give them a warning, and if they don’t have one, they have to get one.”

Girt said boaters who choose to go without the safety equipment can be fined.

“If they’re caught in the lake, they usually can get fined because it is a serious matter, that’s where a lot of our boat accidents come from,” he said.

Individuals who use boats to fish or hunt this fall or winter should follow the following tips provided by the state Fish and Boat Commission: Always wear a life jacket, even when it’s not required, never boat alone, and always tell a family member or friend when and where you decide to depart and arrive back ashore. Become familiar with the area in advance of your trip. Store a fully charged cellphone in a waterproof bag in case of emergencies. Wear clothing that insulates, even when you’re wet, such as fleece and polypropylene.

If getting out of the water isn’t an immediate option, get into the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP) position. individuals should bring their knees to their chest and hug them with their arms in order to maintain as much warmth as possible.

Most boats over 16 feet are not required by regulation to have a life jacket on since they are considered stable water crafts. Anything smaller then that it is advised to have one on.

“Boats over 16 feet are not required to have them on, mostly because of the stability factor, smaller row boats are more unstable all canoes and kayaks no matter the length will fall under the regulation because they’re considered an unstable boat, too,” said Girt.

Jordan Frederick can be reached at jfrederick@huntingdondailynews.com

Experts warn of sugar overconsumption

Following Halloween, many homes are filled with mountains of candy, and kids, and parents alike, eager to gobble them up.

While not all sugar is bad, overconsumption of the sugar found in favorite sweet treats can have negative health impacts.

“It is important to establish that all carbohydrates, except for fiber, are broken down into sugar,” said Beth Gillio, a dietitian at Penn Highlands Huntingdon. “This includes common carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, cereal and sweets, as well as fruits, starchy vegetables and other foods with known health benefits. Negative health implications are more dependent upon added sugars and the amount consumed. Added sugars are any source of sugar that does not naturally exist in foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, many processed snacks and cereals, desserts, candy and many others.The negative implications associated with the over consumption of added sugars are pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.”

Many parents have attributed their children’s hyper-activity to excess sugar, but according to Elizabeth Kauruter, interim director of food and nutrition at Penn Highlands Huntingdon, that isn’t the case.

“Sugar is broken down into energy for regular bodily functions. While many parents perceive that sugar makes their kids hyperactive, substantial research shows there is no link between the two,” she said.

The American Heart Association recommends that adult women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, men no more than 9 teaspoons and children no more than 4 teaspoons.

“Shockingly, children consume an average of 34 teaspoons of sugar per day, while adults average 22 teaspoons a day,” said Joanna Zeigler, a dietitian at Penn Highlands. “When compared to the recommendations, it is clear that adults and children could all benefit from decreasing added sugar in the diet.”

In fact, many people may unknowingly be addicted to sugar.

“New research suggests that sugar can be biologically addicting, as it activates pleasure centers in the brain. In short, yes, it is possible to become addicted to sugar,” said Zeigler.

Zeigler says that cutting back on sugar, while clearly beneficial, isn’t the main strategy she uses for improving the overall health of her patients.

“Some people benefit from going ‘cold turkey.’ Others find slowly decreasing sugar consumption to be more beneficial. However, it is not always about restricting your diet. A registered dietitian’s main focus is to encourage an overall healthy eating pattern. Building a plate rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is always at the center of our recommendations,” she said.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Celebrating renovations

It was a day of celebration for Weis Markets in Huntingdon Borough Thursday, as a grand reopening was held to commemorate some updates and additions to the store.

Those additions to the store include the addition of a beer-wine café, updated décor, four new self checkout registers, a pharmacy consultation room and expanded product offerings throughout the store, including the natural/organic and deli departments.

John Walker, manager of Weis Markets in Huntingdon Borough, further discussed the changes.

“It was a three-month project; we started in July, and we just finished up (Wednesday),” he said. “We reset all of our center-store aisles, we put self-checkouts in front, we remodeled our pharmacy department, put all new cases in our deli department, there’s a new salad bar and, of course, we put in a beer-wine cafe in the store.”

The beer-wine cafe opened late last week, according to Walker, and he said it’s been positively received by shoppers of Weis.

“It’s been open for eight days now,” he said. “Most of the feedback has been positive. There are a few people who are unsure about the beer sales, but 90% has been positive. It’s been great.”

In the beer-wine cafe portion of the store, there have been employees who are specifically trained and will be in that section at all times. Additionally, store employees have gone through the state-mandated training to sell beer and wine at Weis Markets.

“We have an associate back there from open to close,” said Walker. “We have a beer-wine cafe leader who runs the department, and we have three associates who do most of the work in the department, but we also have extra associates trained to work back in the department. They have gone through the state certification training.”

Additionally, those who purchase beer and wine at Weis Markets will need to check out at the beer-wine cafe.

Hours for the beer-wine cafe are slightly different than regular store hours, as it’s open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Customers of Weis Markets are excited for the changes, according to Walker.

“I haven’t heard any negative comments,” he said. “They’re very appreciative the company invested in the store and made the improvements. We have a lot of loyal customers, and they appreciative what our company has done to bring us into the 21st century. I’m amazed with all of the changes. The décor in the store just shouts out and really draws every department together.”

Walker also wanted to thank those customers for their patience and support during the renovation process.

“We did most of the work at night, but things were moved around, and they stuck with us, so we really appreciate their patronage,” he said.

As part of the grand reopening celebration, three organizations were presented with $1,500 donations, including Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue, Community Chapel of Hesston to aid in its annual Thanksgiving dinner outreach at the Huntingdon Community Center and the Backpack Program at Standing Stone Elementary School.